The Historical Jesus by Gary Habermas is a thorough and solid presentation of the historical evidences of the life of Jesus. Countering much of the skeptical authorship and questionable scholarship that can be seen in today’s treatment of the Jesus of history, Habermas takes a simple and straightforward approach to the subject. He presents a clear picture of Jesus and shows the reader the evidence from a wide array of historical sources.
Part One of the book addresses the challenges to the historicity of Jesus. Some make the claim that we cannot know the true Jesus of history. Others deny that he ever lived. Still others bend history to a sort of mythology that cannot be expected to be taken literally. Habermas shows that each of these claims simply do not comport with the evidence and with a reasonable reading of the historical sources.
Another key element addressed by Habermas is the presuppositions that historians and scholars are bringing to their reading of history. For example, an a priori rejection of miracles: “An a priori dismissal cannot be allowed, even if we do not like the conclusion that is indicated by the facts. One must decide on the basis of the known evidence.” The author shows that philosophies of naturalism and the rejection of miracles cause these scholars to disallow the plain meaning of the texts.
Habermas devotes a chapter to rebutting the Jesus Seminar, a group of mixed scholars that form a sort of liberal think-tank – whose conclusions are commonly regarded as on the fringe of credible scholarship. The seminar reports that eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels were not actually spoken by him. Clearly, Part One of The Historical Jesus shows the reader that the problem is not the lack of evidence, but the lack of honest interpretation of the evidence.
Part Two delves into the historical data for the life of Jesus. Habermas builds his case using the following data: creeds, archeology, non-Christian sources, and non-New Testament Christian sources. There is no shortage of evidence here to show that the New Testament itself is well supported by external historical sources.
In all, Habermas examines 45 ancient sources for the life of Jesus. From this he gathers 129 reported facts concerning the life, person, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. From these facts, all of them corroborate the claims of the New Testament, many of which affirm central teachings and doctrines found in the New Testament.
What sets this book apart for this reviewer is its straightforward approach. Habermas does not try to read between the lines, redefine, or reinterpret history. He just plainly presents evidence after evidence that all attest to the historicity of the life of Jesus. He rebuts the most notable liberal and skeptical claims using evidence and a logical plain reading of history. The plain facts make a powerful argument for the New Testament as the most reliable historical record of the life of Jesus Christ.